Looking back on the five best European Championship finals in history

On Sunday, France and Portugal will fight in the 15th final of the European Championships. Ever since 1960, there have been great finals contested by some of the biggest teams in the world, and there have been some snoozers as well. But in this list, we look back on only those matches that live on in our memories. On Saturday, France can win their third European title, while Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo can go on to win their very first major international trophy, whether or not it’s a good enough game to land on this list remains to be seen.

5. 2012 – Spain 4 – 0 Italy

It was the most one-sided final in the tournament’s history, so what is it doing on a best of list? Well, This match was more about watching a brilliant Spanish side make history in the most effortless way possible. Spain had won Euro 2008, and the World Cup in 2010. In 2012 they came into the final with a chance to win 3 major tournaments on the trot. They didn’t disappoint and stormed passed a talented Italy side. Two goals in the first half and two in the second half left no hope for the Italians and left us amazed by a true dynasty. Spain has since lost some of their shine, but from 2008 until 2012, there was no one better.

4. 1960- Soviet Union 2 – 1 Yugoslavia

The very first European Championship featured two countries that no longer exist. The Soviet Union beat out Yugoslavia in a narrow victory that needed extra time to decide a winner. Yugoslavia took the lead shortly before half-time, but after the break, the Soviets fought back and leveled the score. Lead by one of the all-time great keepers, Lev Yashin, the Soviet Union held Yugoslavia off  deep into extra-time.   Viktor Ponedelnik broke the deadlock for the Soviets and they would go on to claim their first and only European Championship.

3. 1976 – Czechoslovakia 2(5) – 2(4) West Germany

The first and only time a European Championship was decided on penalties was in 1976 when Czechoslovakia prevented the West Germans from winning three consecutive major tournaments after they had won the 1972 Euros and the 1974 World Cup. It is also the only time in the country’s history that Germany lost a Penalty shootout in a Major Tournament. The Match itself was a thrilling affair, with the Czechs going 2-0 up before half an hour had gone by. West Germany responded shortly after to make it 2-1. For the entirety of  the second half, the West German side pushed for an equalizer. In injury time, just before Czechoslovakia were set to be crowned champions, Bernd Hölzenbein turned in a goal from a corner to give West Germany a chance to win. However, the match would go to penalties and the West Germans would come up short. Czechoslovakia would convert all five of their penalties and Uli Hoeness would miss his kick, giving Czechoslovakia their first ever Euro triumph.

2. 1996- Germany 2 – 1 Czech Republic

Germany won their first ever international trophy as a unified nation in 1996 after beating the Czech Republic in extra-time with an Oliver Bierhoff golden goal. Germany were favorites coming into the tournament and got to the final on the back of a memorable penalty shootout with hosts England. In the final, they came up against a Czech team that felt that if they beat Germany before(as Czechoslovakia), why couldn’t they do it again? Germany fell behind after 53 minutes thanks to a Patrick Berger penalty, but it was the substitute Bierhoff that came to the rescue. Bierhoff scored the equalizer after 73 minutes, and Germany would take the match into extra-time. The format that year was that of sudden death, meaning once the first goal was scored it was game over. Once again it was Beirhoff who delivered for Germany as he took a shot that was deflected and snuck by the Czech goalkeeper. It was Germany’s third European Championship, and last international championship until the 2014 World Cup. It also showed how exciting a golden goal format could be if teams push to end the match rather than try to take it to penalties.

1. 2000- France 2 – 1 Italy

It’s appropriate that the best Euro final features the team that is contesting this Summer’s final. France won their second European Championship back in 2000 with one of the most dramatic finals ever played. France had to take on Italy, a side with 3 World Cup wins at the time, but only one European crown. Italy boosted a strong defensive line-up, as they always do with names like Cannavaro and Maldini. When Italy took the lead ten minutes into the second half, it seemed like a 1-0 win was in the cards for the Italians. But France wasn’t shy of attacking talent, and they managed to equalize right at the very end of normal time. 3 minutes deep into stoppage time, Sylvain Wiltord broke Italian hearts by leveling the score. The final that summer was destined to go to extra-time. Like in 1996, the match would be decided with a golden goal in extra time. David Trezeguet would be the hero this time as he fired in an unstoppable shot behind Francesco Toldo. The goal gave France their second European Championship, and two years prior they had won the World Cup. It was a good time to be a fan of Les Blues.

About Harrison Prolic

Northern Illinois graduate with a degree in Journalism. Full-time page designer in Madison, Wisconsin. Part time follower of all things German soccer. I tweet about the Bundesliga and plenty of other sports @hprolic.